Camden has been the focal point for all things ‘alternative’ for more than half a century, and it’s still ploughing the same furrow now, albeit with an updated spin. Nowadays the vintage clothing stalls in the area’s famous markets include examples of clothing worn by the punks and New Romantics who swarmed here back in the Eighties, when the location first became cool.
The fashions may have changed but the vibe is still pretty much the same. A centre for music and alternative nightlife, Camden is packed with quirky shops set alongside cafés, bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
And even more appealing, it’s super close to get to from our King’s Cross b&b
It really couldn’t get much easier to get from us at The California here in King’s Cross to Camden Town, since the two areas are so close. But there are still quite a few different ways of getting there.
Head underground at King’s Cross and look out for the Northern Line. Step aboard one of the trains heading north but don’t make yourself too comfortable because you need to get off at the second stop. And don’t panic if the train is departing just as you arrive, as there’ll be another one along in just five minutes.
Prefer to stay above ground? Simply make your way to the bus stops outside King’s Cross Station and look out for the number 214, which also runs every five minutes, although the journey takes a little longer at around 12 minutes, depending on traffic of course.
Bus or train, the price of the journey is £2. Buses won’t accept cash fares, so purchase a ticket before you travel. Most visitors find it useful to buy one of the saver ticket options which can be ordered in advance – check out the details on the Transport for London website.
Hail a cab and you can relax and stretch your legs out for the 12-minute ride. It’ll set you back around £9 but you can really connect with the city, particularly if you happen to get a chatty cab driver!
Depending on the route you choose, and on the speed that you walk, it takes around 15 – 20 minutes to get from the heart of King’s Cross to the heart of Camden Town. Sacrifice speed for scenery and the journey will take longer but will allow you to see another side of this multi-faceted city.
Head north to Granary Square, the regenerated area famous for its street food, café culture and interactive fountains. Head for the canal and then turn left to follow its route all the way to Camden Lock. You’ll find hidden corners of green parks – and even a wildlife reserve – as you pass by, and you can experience a little of the magic of Regents Canal for yourself.
Camden Lock is an iconic feature which is well worth a visit. Once a bustling centre for trade, the whole area is still steeped in commerce but these days it’s mostly in the form of markets which are dotted throughout this little part of London.
Some of the markets, such as Inverness Street and Camden Lock Village, are open every day, whilst others such as Camden Stables and the Electric Ballroom Fashion Market, trade only at the weekend. For the most part though, Camden Town is open for business seven days a week, so you’ll always find something to pique your interest. Set aside plenty of time for browsing through the market stalls as it’s astonishing how much there is to see – and buy, of course!
Read more: The best London markets near King’s Cross
Luckily with so many great places to eat in the neighbourhood there’s no fear that you’ll shop till you actually drop. Take the weight off your feet at one of the bijou cafes, or eat on the hoof thanks to the many street food traders who gravitate towards the markets.
With its musical roots going back to the 1970s when it first started attracting alternative bands and musicians, Camden has a reputation for being a top destination for a great night out in London. Well-known and even infamous nightspots include Dingwalls, The Roundhouse and Koko, where Madonna and Kylie have played small and intimate gigs in recent years.
Arty types have always tended to gravitate to the area. Dudley Moore, Nick Mason from Pink Floyd and the late Amy Winehouse all chose to make their homes here, and fans of Amy still visit The Hawley Arms pub where she wasn’t averse to stepping behind the counter and pulling pints for customers.
When all the hustle and bustle simply gets too much and you need to kick back and relax, then head for one of the many beautiful green spaces nearby. Just a short walk along the canal will soon bring you to another, more peaceful, world altogether, where you can stop and catch your breath.
Regent’s Park and ZSL London Zoo are just a couple of minutes’ walk away, or you could wander up Primrose Hill and admire the views of the cityscape spread out before you. If even these oases of calm sound too hectic then the residents of Highgate Cemetery certainly won’t be making any noise, and this is a truly beautiful – admittedly Gothic – and peaceful way to while away a few hours. Well we did say this was an ‘alternative’ area!
Read more: The California live music guide